The BITD Season Begins!
Story and Photos By: Mike Ingalsbee
The first cars to hit the dirt in the 2020 Best in the Desert series were the youth racers who competed at the Tensor Tire Parker 250 held in Parker, Arizona. The kids raced on Friday, and the Pro classes ran on Saturday. Youth racing has become a big deal to the sport as we have seen these competitors go on to become top pros. Many of those who are now at the top of their game got their start banging tiny wheels in a 170, or 250 UTV.
It’s always fun to look back to when the top racers of today had a milk mustache instead of a beard. Those of us who are older remember when Robby Gordon was a brash teenager who scared everyone who was standing near the course. Now his son Max is following in his footsteps; benefitting from all of Robby’s guidance. Many of the youth competitors are also following in their Father’s and Mother’s footsteps. The Gordon family is not alone when it comes to second or third generation racers. You can read the results and see plenty of names that are familiar to desert racing like Sallee, Chase, VanBeekum, Lambert, Queen, Mamelli; the list goes on.
It’s incredible to watch these kids making moves on the race track that you typically see from seasoned racers. The thing is, they are seasoned. Many of these kids will have competed for a decade or more by the time they are licensed to drive on the street. At the Tensor 250, the two youngest competitors were 6 year olds Jaemison Dewolfe, and Jack Gonzalez. Some of the teenage competitors lined up in the Youth 1000 class driving their Polaris RS1’s. The 1000 class along with Production 700/800, and the 570 class ran a 12 mile course that went out into the desert for 3 laps. The RS1’s were the fastest with the top 2 finishers posting times under an hour. This class is going to be fun this year having some top talent competing. In Parker it was Ethan Groom, who got the top spot over Dallas Gonzalez who admitted to exposing the bottom of his car to the sun momentarily, but managed to only lose minimal time. Jaxxton Lambert was third running 1 hour and 1 second for the three laps.
After the desert race in the morning, the short course races were held on a track by the entrance to the pits. The 170 classes ran first, and they represented the largest field of youth racers; 25 cars in all. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to have a kid in the race to be entertained. The cars are smaller, and they don’t have the same sound, but everywhere you looked on the track the dirt was flying. 2 or 3 wide, cars ending up on their lids, driving their competition deep into the turns, and back and forth battles raged on everywhere; it was intense. When they do go over, there are plenty of track officials to right them, and they’re back at full throttle the minute their wheels hit the ground. While some of the kids are just having fun, others have a championship on their minds. One such racer is George Llamosas who won the 170 class for the second year in a row. George has been featured in Little Rippers as he has a lead foot and typically runs up front. Chase Mankin is another hard charger. He won the 170 modified class.
The final race of the day was the 250 class. Although they only had 5 entries, it was incredible! Chaden Minder, Travis Sallee, Jack Gonzalez, George Llamosas, and Becker Chase put on one heck of a race. From the drop of the green flag they drove full throttle into every turn. If anyone made the slightest bobble, they lost a position. The lead went back and forth; sometimes swapping several times in a single lap. Becker Chase was out early leaving Minder, Llamosas, and Sallee in a tight bunch battling for the lead. Jack Gonzalez was plugging away but having some handling issues. Gonzalez was having a hard time in the tight, right hand turn after the main straight-away. He went wide several times, once landing on his lid. He was flipped over, and continued. Meanwhile the battle up front raged on until George Llamosas had a transmission failure leaving Chaden Minder in the lead with Travis Sallee right behind. That was the order when the checkered flag flew. Gonzalez soldiered on to get a 3rd place podium finish. Remember, we mentioned Jack Gonzalez before. He is only 6 years old! By the time he’s 12, he’ll be a grizzled veteran. The future of off-road racing is looking very promising with so many Little Rippers coming up through the ranks.